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Ghailani Terror Trial Might End Earlier than Expected

  • Peter Fedynsky

The trial in New York City of alleged terrorist Ahmed Ghailani, who is accused of conspiracy in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, might conclude earlier than expected. The prosecution says it will wrap up its case in a few weeks, which means proceedings could be over by late December. Meanwhile, the prosecution has called witnesses on Monday that place Ghailani in a Mombasa clothing store where FBI agents say they found evidence of explosives.

The prosecution began this week's proceedings by calling two witnesses from Mombasa, Kenya who are familiar with the Azzam clothing store where they say Ghailani worked in 1997 and 1998.

One witness was a car mechanic whose garage was across the street from the store. He testified that several men came to the store often for about seven months prior to the attack. Responding to a prosecution question whether the men stood out, he said their Swahili was not very good and that they spoke with a Tanzanian accent.

The other witness was Salim Ahmed Swedan - the older brother of Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, the man who allegedly provided the trucks used in the Nairobi and Dar es Salam embassy bombings. The older Swedan testified that his brother was friends with the man who ran the clothing store for his mother. The witness said that one week before the Nairobi bombing, his brother told him he was taking his wife and three children from Mombasa to Yemen. The younger Swedan was reportedly killed by a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan last year.

Two FBI agents who were sent to investigate the blast in Kenya also testified. Special Agent Megan Miller said the FBI found microscopic evidence of explosives at the clothing store. Explosives expert Donald Sachtleben said about 460 kilograms would be a conservative estimate of how much TNT was used in the Nairobi bombing.

The prosecution asked Sachtleben to identify several pieces of heavy, twisted metal found in the rubble of the explosion. He said only immense force could twist and crater such thick pieces of steel.

During cross-examination, the defense asked mostly technical questions.